By Ray Hamill — There’s a new head coach for Del Norte football this season, but that won’t change the fundamentals for a program that likes to get physical more than Olivia Newton John.
And they’ve probably been doing it for longer than she has too.
“We want to run the ball, and we want to stop the run,” first-year head coach Nick White said. “It’s a really big emphasis for us, being physical no matter what we’re doing.”
Early indications are the Warriors will again be tough to stop in the trenches this season, with four returning offensive linemen from a team that surprised some people a year ago on the way to a 9-3 record.
It would have been five returners but for a torn ACL suffered while playing basketball in May by senior Eli Larson, who was expected to be one of the unit’s leading performers.
The good news for the Warriors is that they may have found a perfect replacement in Sam Schauerman.
“We’re lucky to have Sam come up and be ready to start as a sophomore,” White said of the 5-11, 250-pound underclassman. “That kid is super coachable.”
Leader at center
Schauerman joins a unit that also includes senior team leaders Luke King and Anthony Slayton.
King is a third-year starter at center and the leader of the unit, while Slayton will play guard and is also expected to play a pivotal role on the defensive side of things at middle linebacker.
Senior Timmy Thompson and junior Tanner Forkner are both also back along the line and will bring added physicality.
At quarterback, senior OJ Calleja returns after a breakout season a year ago.
Calleja’s development at the position in 2018 freed up all-star Ethan Price, who was used in a variety of positions, a move that was key to the Warriors’ success.
Even bigger things are expected out of Calleja this fall.
“He’s taking on a role in leading this offense,” White said. “He’s directing everybody and helping this team come together.”
Another senior, Kai Baugh, is also expected to play a big role on the defensive line and at full back after transferring back to the school where he played as a sophomore.
All in all, White has 22 players on his varsity roster, not a huge number for Del Norte, but there is plenty of quality and enough depth for the Warriors to feel they can challenge for a conference championship and more.
And each player can expect to be involved.
“All the kids are playing,” White said with a laugh. “Whether they like it or not.”
The transition has been easier for a coach that served as an assistant with the program for much of the past decade, describing the change as “very busy and very rewarding.”
And much of that has to do with the way his players have responded.
“A core group of these kids showed up in the offseason and were dedicated,” he said. “I just think the team chemistry is great. These kids have been together for a long time.”
As for his team’s goals this fall?
“We’re focused on the first game,” White said. “And to just be competitive, and focus on ourselves and what we can do each week to build on the season.”
The Warriors kick off the season at Moreau Catholic next Friday night.